Love it or hate it, we all use social media to some degree. It also triggers many of us with anxiety and pushes our buttons. Ever on the lookout for my gurls I am including this for those who need a little help.
I know not everyone is going to be into this, so I will bury it behind a “Read more…” in a moment. However, if you’re looking for a happier social media place than the dry rotting carcass of Twitter, I would encourage you to use Mastodon. It’s easier than you think.
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, as Matt does this really well. I can, however add a few good thoughts and ideas about using Mastodon.
It helps to avoid thinking of Mastodon as a replacement for Twitter. It is different. While Twitter could be once thought of as the Town Hall of the internet, Mastodon is more like the street on which you live. And there’s nothing to stop you pulling on your best heels and putting your best foot forward on this exciting platform
From this street you can, of course, get to the rest of the internet world, but this is a closer community. So, when you post (Toot) you are speaking to the others in your street. When someone searches, from anywhere, they can see your tweet, but if they’re not in your street they’d not have seen your post in their feed. They’d have had to look for it.
There’s a few reasons this is a good idea. It’s a human reality that birds of a feather flock together. So, you’ll find the fundamentalist (fill in the loonie cause here) tend to stick together on a server other than yours. There are LGBTQ servers, there are journalism servers, and even model builders servers. I prefer a slightly more general one and I am on mastodon.online . It’s normal for Mastodon address not to have the .com/.org/ etc suffix.
The result is I do get a lot of general chat. I like that. It’s a deliberate choice not to be too siloed. And of course this is something you can do with Mastodon that you cannot with Twitter. By now you can probably tell I am not impressed with the post Musk Twitter world. But my prejudices aside there’s a lot to be said for Masotodon.
Firstly, it’s a distributed system. Each server stands independently. This builds diversity and strength. Nice words but what does it mean?
It means that if the mastodon server was blown up, Mastodon would continue to exist. There are now thousands of servers, and likely there will be a lot more soon. It would be like one cell of honey being killed in a beehive. There’s many other cells to continue the life of the hive. For those interested, that was part of Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of how the net should be. He’s the English computer scientist largely credited with inventing the internet.
So, there’s massive resilience built into Mastodon. I need hardly tell you that if someone blew up Twitter’s servers, or they failed through lack of maintenance (not unlikely currently), the whole sticking pile of right wing garbage will collapse – hopefully on Elon Musk’s smiling fat face.
Secondly, no one owns Mastodon. What does that mean? It means that no stuffed shirt from Pretoria can weight the general algorithm subtly in favor of one political opinion. No one is out there measuring your political profile, and selling that data to a political party. In other words, you are really in the driving seat. You choose what you see.
Thirdly, there’s no advertising or data harvesting. Nothing happens on the big networks without data being harvested, cut and diced and distributed out to those who pay for it. Remember how if you accidently clicked on an advertisement for a holiday, and the next thing you know you keep seeing ads for travel insurance, flights and vacations? Yeah, not happening on Mastodon.
I could go on. However, I don’t want this post to be just a rant. I think you can see there’s a lot to this.
So, how to best use it?
Unlike Twitter this social media platform is not all about numbers. I was suprised when, with only 90 followers, I had someone I admire immensely boost (retweet) one of my posts. George Takei. Yeah! Sulu. And by the way, on the credits for Star Trek (original series) have you ever noticed how they left the port indicator on? I know, a little inappropriate joke there from the dumb white trannie. You can find George here – https://universeodon.com/@georgetakei
It’s important to put a simple but clear profile statement that will mean something to people who might follow you. People on Mastodon read these. Mine is – A twitter escapee. I’m holding a mirror up to the world, and applying a rather nice shade of lipstick. https://fionadobson.com/about/ and in my case I include ‘_CD’ in my name, so anyone in our community knows exactly who and what I am. You can read my profile here – @FionaDobson@mastodon.online
After your profile has been set up you should post an introduction. Here’s a good format to follow:
- “Hello everyone, nice to see you here!
- I’m a scientist / #plant detective (and #fungi) interested in #climatechange, #scicomm and what is happening in the planet .
- I also post about #botany, #ecology, #naturalhistory, and occasionally posts about #LGBTQ #Genderfluid
- #introduction #FirstToot“
Notice how many hashtags there are there. You’ll also see it’s polite and non judgmental. That’s something of a theme on Mastodon. It’s not a place to look for a fight. Easy balanced discourse is the name of the game. I will come to things like blocking people in a moment.
Your number of followers is not that important on Mastodon. It’s the relevance of the people you follow that dictates your Mastodon experience. With this in mind look at the people in your Local feed (that’s others on your server – think of it as others in your street) and when you see something interesting follow that individual.
The second part of this equation is that on Mastodon it really is a good idea to follow back those who follow you. The engagement style feeds into this, and you will find people do follow back regularly. Keep in mind users with many followers and who follow few people may not be the people to follow if what you’re looking for is engaging discourse. Having many followers and following few is a little like saying ‘I have an opinion, but I’m not interested in hearing yours.’
On Mastodon the hashtag is everything. Whenever you post, use hashtags. That allows others to find your post.
While Twitter has it’s ‘DM’ or ‘Direct Message’ Mastodon handles this by you being able to select who see’s a post. You’ll find there’s a globe at the base of the posting field, which you can set to Public, Unlisted, Followers Only, or People Mentioned in this post. It’s actually very easy to use. It also helps you to avoid posting to the world if you really only want the person you’re responding to seeing the message.
There are a series of tools in Mastodon. Just look for the three dots (…) at the end of any post. These give you the ability to copy, embed, pin or mute a post or conversation. They also allow you to Mute, Block, Filter or Report a post.
Don’t be shy about using these tools. Which brings me to the next thing. On a person’s profile there’s three vertical dots that allow you to Mute, Block Or Report the user. You can also direct message them from their profile and do some other cool things. I urge you not to be shy about using these tools. If someone is being confrontational, aggressive or just plain contrary, either mute or block them. Unlike Twitter, the objective on Mastodon is to have a great experience. If you’re seeing content that’s unreasonable you really only have yourself to blame, so use the damned tools.
Take it from a super lib trannie – no one ever won an argument online. Don’t get sucked in. I run a blog which is seen by hundreds of thousands of people. The only way to control naysayers (and you’d be horrified by how many vitriolic transphobe twitter users just want to rage) is to mute or block. I should add, I hardly see any on Mastodon. I feel well qualified to talk about this, as someone who was outed to my own children years ago by an online stalker. You can read about it here!
I would add that it’s great etiquette when in reasonable discourse online generally to acknowledge the other person’s point of view, add something about the aspects with which you do agree, and then gently include the points you take a little issue with. If there is too much distance between your points of view, step out of it.
Many people forget that we don’t know what others are going through, or what their history is. I go back to my mother’s advice, if you’ve not got something positive to say, just pipe down and put on some make up. My father’s perspective was rather different. He’d flog the bastard and then hang them for good measure. That doesn’t really work very well these days.
As you know I do a lot of work online. Much of it is on social media. In recent years – largely due to data siloes and algorithms – social media has become a blood sport, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Mastodon is going to be what we make it.
Let’s make it shine.
Twitter has started blocking links to Mastodon, which many people leaving the site place on their profile, to direct friends to their new home. An easy way around this is to use a URL shortener, such as Bitly.com to change your Mastodon URL, and then post the shortened version on your old Twitter account. Another method is to post a QR code pointed to your Mastodon account as your Twitter profile image.
If you are leaving Twitter for good, which I strongly suggest you do, you may want to do the following:
Just go to the Playstore, search for Twitter. Don’t reinstall it, but rate it with one star. Then select the three dots in the top right, with ‘Flag As Inappropriate’. The next screen asks why you think it is inappropriate. Mark it as ‘Contains Hate Speech’, and submit.
Google does take these reports seriously. It’s worth the effort.